Junior states on several occasions that he wants to be a comic-book artist when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys drawing, and his illustrations (drawn by Ellen Forney) are spread throughout the book, making humorous commentary on the text.
Junior is so attached to drawing and comics because he sees art as a universal language anyone can react to and understand regardless of their background. This idea ties in to Junior's misfit status among both the Spokane Indians and the white students at Reardan. For Junior, his drawings are a way of escaping the feelings of alienation that come from being different from others, whether that is physically (as on the reservation) or racially (as at Reardan High). They allow him to connect with others, no matter who they may be.
Junior's drawings also allow him to focus on a potential future beyond the poverty and hopelessness of the reservation, fueling his dreams of becoming a famous comic-book artist. He even goes so far as to call his drawings "lifeboats," since they prevent him from being overtaken by despair. Unlike his sister, Mary, who squandered her writing talents despite having a passion for storytelling, Junior wants to pursue art and do what he loves when he grows up.